Upper School
US Curriculum

Interdisciplinary Studies

The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies offers innovative courses that draw on knowledge, skills, materials, and content that span two or more disciplines. Some courses in this department are listed solely within this department while others are cross-listed where relevant.

Interdisciplinary Study Courses

List of 19 items.

  • American Law

    (History Major) -- This course is designed to begin to explore how the law works and give students some actual experience in doing what lawyers and judges do. It consists of the following units/topics:
    1) What is Law? To start off the course we will examine the different sources of law (statutory, case law, etc.) and the organization of the American court system, and get a basic understanding of how laws are used. In examining how our system is structured, students will identify and discuss biases and perspectives in the legal system.

    2) Criminal Law and Juvenile Justice: This topic will fascinate students who consume shows like Law & Order. In this unit they get a deeper understanding of the challenges behind criminal justice such as balancing protecting the community with rehabilitation for the offender

    3) Individual Rights and Liberties (Constitutional Law): The U.S. Constitution is a unique and rich source of personal rights that has made the United States an example to the rest of the world. But how to interpret the Constitution and the rights it affords has been a long, difficult, and ongoing process. Some of the most interesting debates contained in the law can be found in this field of law. Some topics will include: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Due Process, The Right to Privacy, Discrimination. This unit may vary year-to-year depending on what issues the Court is addressing in its current term. During this unit, students will closely read Supreme Court cases and interpret the decisions of the justices

    4) Torts (A Civil Wrong): Almost everyone is aware of the “lawsuit,” but most people don’t really understand the principles behind lawsuits. This unit will bring this concept into focus and highlight some different kinds of torts and provide examples by examining real cases.

    5) Evidence & Trial Procedure: Students will learn how to communicate clearly and effectively by learning trial advocacy skills including how evidence is presented, how to conduct direct and cross-examinations, how to make objections, and how to apply laws to evidence in order to make legal arguments, etc.
  • Architecture and Design

    (Visual Arts Major) -- This course introduces students to the world of buildings and their design. Students begin the year with a variety of mechanical and schematic drawing exercises or “puzzles,” designed to teach them how to visualize complex architectural forms in space. Students will also become familiar with a range of architectural tools and techniques, as they learn to confidently draft fundamental design elements such as plans, sections, and elevations. In the final trimester, students will have the opportunity to design and draft a full set of plans for an original structure of their own conception, as well as construct a scaled model of their building.

    Throughout the year, as a means of cultivating a deeper appreciation for the role of architecture in society, the storied history of architecture will be presented and discussed. A full-day field trip into Manhattan is scheduled for the spring.
  • Collaborative Storytelling and Role-Play Gaming

    (English or History Minor) -- This interdisciplinary course will use roleplay gaming and collaborative worldbuilding as a means to analyze literature and historical periods, write creative fiction, and foster social learning. The structure of course units will involve building a fictionalized world and characters based on literary and historical texts and films, and then roleplaying scenes and scenarios to foster ideas for individual student writing and group presentations.

    In addition to role-playing, creative writing, and making presentations for class, students will learn about game system creation, reflect on metagaming, and lead games as the head storyteller—which requires public speaking and improvisation skills.

    Potential game modules may include Collaborative Worldbuilding by Trent Hergenrader, Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf, Dungeons and Dragons by Wizards of the Coast, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games, and Dread by The Impossible Dream, among others.
  • Debate

    (History Minor) -- Debate will provide students opportunities within the school day to prepare for scheduled debates. Students will be able to improve their research skills, their ability to put forward a cogent argument, and their public speaking skills.

    Students who sign up for the course are expected to participate in interscholastic debates. These debates occur on Saturdays throughout the school year. Students who wish to take part in competitive debates must sign up for this elective if their schedules allow. Students whose schedules do not allow them to enroll in this course may be allowed to participate on a case-by-case basis.
  • Economics

    (History Major) -- Economics is the study of the choices people make about how to use scarce resources, such as time, money, and the natural world. How much time should I study for a test, and how much time should I hang out with friends? Is there a “best” way to decide? Economics tries to figure that out. What should businesses produce? What if some people can’t afford a place to live? Should the government build more schools, or more tanks, or less of everything? Exactly how bad is it to cut down a rainforest? How do we make these decisions?

    Economists have offered many answers to these questions, and some of these answers have had profound effects on modern history. This course will attempt to understand the questions, the answers, and those profound effects. In doing so, we will examine the principles of micro and macroeconomics, such as supply and demand, the theory of the firm, competition/monopoly, the Classicals, and the Keynesians, fiscal and monetary policy, and more.
  • Electronic Publishing I

    (Electronic Publishing Minor) -- This course combines the study of print and digital media with an emphasis on creating multimedia stories. As the course is designed to give structure to the creation and maintenance of student publications, students will explore all aspects of the journalistic process, including writing and presenting content using electronic publishing applications for print and online delivery. Students will learn the basics of journalistic writing, including composing interesting leads and nut graphs, and organizing facts using an inverted pyramid style.

    Students will also develop proficiency in the use of a variety of commercially available software packages for electronic publishing, video production, color printers, digital cameras, and scanners to layout and publish their work. The course will include extensive hands-on practice.
  • Electronic Publishing II: "Dial"

    (Electronic Publishing Minor) -- This course continues building on the skills learned in Electronic Publishing I. This is an advanced course that continues to explore all aspects of the journalistic process begun in Electronic Publishing I and is designed to give structure to the creation and maintenance of the student newspaper, the Dial, in both its print as well as digital formats.

    Students will enhance their skills in journalistic writing begun in Electronic Publishing I; however, the emphasis is on the elements of production including scheduling, assignments, design, layout, and graphics. Students will use computers and a variety of commercially available software packages for desktop and web publishing and multimedia creation. The course will center around hands-on practice. Requirements center around the timely completion and publication of the print and digital formats of the student newspaper.
  • Electronic Publishing II Advanced: "Dial" Editors

    (Electronic Publishing Major) --   This course continues to build on the skills learned in Electronic Publishing II and to explore all aspects of the journalistic process in the electronic-publishing track.

    The course focuses on the creation and maintenance of Hackley’s award-winning student newspaper, the Dial. In addition to practicing advanced skills in journalistic writing, layout, design, and graphics, students will develop the collaborative leadership roles needed to complete each issue in an efficient and timely manner. Students are responsible for all elements of production—scheduling, assignments, mentoring, design, layout, and graphics. For example, students will develop proficiency in using commercially available software packages for desktop and web publishing, color printers, digital cameras, and scanners.
  • Electronic Publishing II: "Hilltop"

    (Electronic Publishing Minor) --  This course is designed for those who are interested in working on the yearbook. Having already learned Adobe InDesign and journalistic writing in Electronic Publishing I, students will apply their skills in copy editing, caption writing, and design concept. Upon joining this course, each student will be assigned to be the editor for a specific section of the yearbook.

    Through the completion of the yearbook pages, students will build and strengthen their organizational skills and learn how best to manage yearbook page deadlines. Some knowledge in Photoshop is helpful but not required.
  • Food and Power: The Science and Politics Behind What We Eat

    (Science Major) -- Food is necessary for life, yet it is far more than a necessity. What we eat is heavily tied to our culture, our history, our political systems, our beliefs, and our available technologies. What we eat influences our own health as well as the health of the planet. This interdisciplinary course looks at food and its relationships with power, culture, and the environment. We will also cook, garden, and learn about the science and nutrition behind what we eat.

    Course work will include readings from varied sources, class discussions, hands-on activities, projects, presentations, and papers. Participation in STEM night and ExDay is expected.
  • Foundations of Reading, Writing, and Thinking

    (English Minor) -- Open to all Upper School students with preference to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.

    Focused on the practical, immediately useful basics of writing, “Foundations of Reading, Writing, and Thinking” is intended for students who want to improve their skills as readers and writers.

    Language allows us to communicate our ideas and to learn those of others. The more skillfully we put our ideas into words, the better we can understand ourselves and the world around us. Focused on practical reading, writing, and thinking skills, the goal of this course is to help upper school students develop and strengthen their reading and writing skills, and through them to strengthen their thinking and communication skills. We will examine both published and student-generated writing.

    We will begin by working on introductions and theses: what to include in them when writing and what to look for in them when reading. Next, we will work on organization and support of ideas within paragraphs and organization of paragraphs within essays: how to organize to express ideas clearly and how to read actively to discern the organization and meaning of others. Then we will take up the often-neglected conclusion, giving it the same attention. In the process we will focus on close reading skills and on developing sensitivity to diction, syntax, and tone.

    As the year progresses—and in response to student needs—we will also work on editing and proofreading skills, which will involve learning the necessary grammar and punctuation. As much as possible we will deal with grammar through online exercise and quizzes. In the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, the teacher will provide students with individualized instruction and feedback
  • Government and Politics: The United States and the World

    (History Major) -- This course examines government and politics from both domestic and international perspectives. In an era of diminished interest and participation, this course aims to instruct and engage students in the political process. By reading, discussing, and writing about secondary texts and current events, students will gain both a historical and contemporary point of view of the vagaries and complexities of political systems.
  • Independent Research in English And History

    (English or History Minor) -- IREH offers students the opportunity to conduct advanced research and writing at the college level under the guidance of English and History faculty. Students will develop their own topics or research questions, review the scholarly literature in the relevant discipline(s), understand and employ the research methodologies relevant to their research, and write on the research question, ultimately producing significant research essays.

    Students may choose to research and write on questions in English or History, or they may develop interdisciplinary questions touching on both. While much research can be carried out using resources available at Hackley, we will support students in developing relationships with scholars whose own work is relevant to the students’ research.

    Students may complete the course in one academic year, or, should their research require it, and with approval of the relevant instructors and department chairs, may continue the course for a second year.

    Enrollment in IREH is by application to the relevant department(s). 

    Students wishing to do interdisciplinary research in both departments should direct applications to both.

    Students should submit at the time of course registration an application consisting of a short statement (approximately 250 words) explaining why they would like to pursue this course of study and what topic they think they might like to explore. Instructors will then seek the recommendation of the student's current teachers in the appropriate disciplines.
  • Introduction to Filmmaking

    (Visual Arts Major) --  This is a production-oriented course that guides students on a step-by-step exploration of the fundamentals of filmmaking, including brainstorming short film ideas, scriptwriting, character development, storyboarding, animatic creation, directing and cinematography essentials, picture editing, sound design, and titles/credits.

    After a short overview of cinema and animation history, students begin production of a short film of approximately 10 to 20 minutes in length. Grouped in teams, students will brainstorm, write, direct, shoot, and edit a short film that emphasizes a strong story structure. Teams will be encouraged to share these key responsibilities to give each group member a first-hand understanding of the filmmaking process.

    With the permission of the instructor, some students may work on shorter solo film projects. Video camera basics will be covered to allow students to take full advantage of the camera’s tools to further enhance a film’s aesthetic quality and creative potential. Students may choose to explore their artistic visions by making films of any genre, including fiction, non-fiction, animated, live-action, music-themed, documentary, comedy, drama, etc.

    Throughout the year, students will be introduced to various professionals in the field who will advise them on their conceptual, pre-production, and post-production phases of their films.
  • Machine Learning with Music and Art

    (Computer Science Minor) -- This course is recommended for students who are comfortable moving into syntax-based programming and have a basic understanding of loops, selection statements, variables, and logical thought.

    Does building a new digital musical instrument that responds to your gestures sound like an interesting project? How about creating an interactive visual art installation that reacts to movement? If so, consider taking this course! Students in this course will learn about the fundamentals of machine learning and apply those skills to controlling sound, music, and visual imagery with human gestures and real-time data.

    In this course, students will use the Processing programming environment, machine learning modeling software, output software to create sound, and input devices such as cameras, computer mice, hardware sensors, and game controllers to create their multimedia projects. The course focuses on learning the software, hardware, and algorithms used in machine learning environments and employing creativity and best practices in creating new real-time interactive systems in the arts.
  • Public Speaking

    (Performing Arts or English Minor) -- This course will assist students in developing better public-speaking skills through the use of voice, speech, and presentation techniques.

    Topics covered in this class will include:
    • Presenting informative, persuasive, storytelling, demonstration, impromptu and group speeches
    • Dealing with stage fright
    • Using one’s voice to one’s advantage
    • Relating to the audience
    Students will be required to write their own speeches throughout the course of the year. They will watch and analyze great inspirational speeches, as well as those of their classmates.

    (Note: This course does not satisfy the Visual/Performing Arts graduation requirement.)
  • Service Leadership for Social Impact

    (Minor) -- Service Leadership for Social Impact provides students with the opportunity to explore the origins and complexities of contemporary social issues in Westchester County in order to engage in effective and impactful service to the community. Using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, students will examine what these global issues look like on a hyper-local level.

    Students will ponder questions such as:
    • What does poverty, food insecurity, access to education, homelessness, access to healthcare, etc. look like in Westchester?
    • Who are our neighbors affected by these social ills?
    • Which organizations in our area are addressing these issues?
    • How are these organizations addressing these needs?
    Through a series of short-term and long-term Service-Learning and Community Service projects, this will give students the tools and skills necessary not only to engage actively with community partners but to do so with a deep sense of purpose.

    This year-long course is open to students in grades 10-12 and is highly recommended to students who lead service-oriented clubs in the Upper School.
  • Southern Odyssey, a Global Context Course

    (History Minor) -- The interdisciplinary nature of the course will enable us to bring this distinct region alive. From the birth of gospel on slave plantations to the rhythms brought over by West Africa or their Caribbean immigrant descendants in Cuba or Haiti to the wailing of Delta bluesmen, from the chain gang escape genre to “My Cousin Vinny,” from Faulkner’s stream of consciousness to Toni Morrison’s spectral visions, the South inhabits the most fertile corner of the American imagination.

    It also is the source of the country’s early capital accumulation, the birthplace of most early presidents, and, in many ways, the crossroads of its most violent conflicts.

    Its story is fundamental to understanding who we are as a nation.

    Students who sign up for the course would commit to participating in a 12-day spring break trip to visit important Southern historical, cultural, and natural landmarks.

    A study of history, environment & culture will provide the course foundation. The curriculum will focus on a range of themes and questions among which may be:
    • Geography & climate: environmental factors shaping settlement & current life
    • Culture mix: Native, English, Scots-Irish, African/Afro-Caribbean, French, Spanish
    • Economic foundations: farming, textiles, coal, fishing & oil
    • Race & class: the long legacy of slavery, segregation, and class inequality
    • Did the Civil War ever end? The resiliency of neo-Confederate ideology
    • “Gimme that old-time religion:” Christian fundamentalism & Southern society
    • Incubator of American sounds: gospel, blues, bluegrass, jazz, and soul
    • Grits, God, guns & good-old-boys: what lurks behind those Southern stereotypes?
    • The South & the American literary imagination
  • The Vision: Multiple Views, Rich Media

    (English Minor) -- Enrollment will be limited to 12 students, including two editors-in-chief (who have already been selected), three managing editors (to be selected from current sophomores for a two-year commitment in junior year and senior year, when they will serve as editors-in-chief), two literary editors, two art editors, one web editor, and one media/sound editor. 

    When applying, students should indicate for which role or roles they feel they are best suited. Past experience with InDesign or a similar graphics program is a plus, though not a requirement, and students should mention what relevant experience they have in their applications. 

    This course will involve students creating a year-long presentation of Hackley creative writing and visual arts through print, web, and digital media. Students will begin by soliciting, evaluating, and editing literature and artwork for inclusion in a new online literary and art magazine. They will help create and manage a basic online posting system on the Hackley website, and they will work as editors to support the online presence of these materials—both for internal and external audiences—with regular bi-weekly postings. 

    Students will select the best of the art and literature gathered for online presentation and will include this work in the printed publication. 

    Students will learn to use the InDesign graphics program to develop and manage visual layouts. They will design the printed publication and see it through all phases of editing, proofing, and print production. They will also have to work within a budget, which will necessitate creative decision-making as they bring their vision (pun intended) into reality. And they will be required to support and meet frequent deadlines for various components and phases of the project, culminating with delivery in the spring of The Vision publication.

    In addition, The Vision will offer published students the opportunity to read their work (or have it read) for an audio CD that will accompany the printed magazine. Students working on the publication will help support the recording process and oversee the creation of the CD. Throughout the process of presenting both online and print versions of The Vision, students will learn to combine and manipulate different types of media such as text, audio, and graphics. They will employ microphones, scanners, and other input devices to gather information.

    While students will be enrolled based on application for specific roles in the editorial structure, where they will hold primary responsibility, students will participate in and learn all aspects of the project.